Ravens won't be sitting on wide receiver needs

If available, Boston or Holt could be pick

NFL draft

April 14, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

This much is clear. The Ravens, in dire need of a wide receiver to complement diminutive Pro Bowl player Jermaine Lewis, plan to select at least one in this weekend's NFL draft.

This much is likely. Since the 1999 crop of rookie wide-outs appears to lack the depth that characterizes most drafts, the Ravens will address their wide receiver problem early.

In other words, if either North Carolina State's Torry Holt or Ohio State's David Boston is available when the Ravens make the 10th overall selection, one of them figures to be Baltimore-bound.

Given the choice, the Ravens would take Holt, who could have entered last year's draft after an outstanding junior season in Raleigh but chose to refine his game as a senior. That decision ultimately elevated Holt, 6 feet, 192 pounds, to Top 10 status among draftees.

Not that the Ravens would hang their heads by settling for Boston. Although not as well-rounded as Holt, Boston, 6-1, 215, is bigger and faster. He presents a better deep threat. He also has chosen to skip his senior season in Columbus after producing stellar games last season in the Sugar Bowl and against conference powers like Michigan and Penn State.

"Holt is the more consistent, more polished guy. He's good on the short, medium and long stuff. Smooth hands," said Phil Savage, the Ravens' director of college scouting. "Boston is the more vertical guy, the bigger threat downfield. Boston has more drops, but he's also more physical, although we consider Holt to be a big guy. The upside of Boston is intriguing. He's a pro."

Likewise for prospects like Kevin Johnson of Syracuse, Louisiana Tech's Troy Ed wards, Peerless Price of national champion Tennessee, Michigan's Tai Streets and North Carolina's Na Brown. Those receivers all figure to be gone by the middle of the second round.

By that point in the draft, the pickings at receiver will be extremely thin, in the eyes of Ravens vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome.

Possible late-round sleepers include Nebraska-Omaha's Martay Jenkins, Alabama's Quincy Jackson and Kent's Eugene Baker.

"This [draft] is not as strong as the last few years [at receiver]," said Newsome, who took little-known James Roe out of Norfolk State in the sixth round in 1996, but probably will not reach that far in 1999. "It's good at the top with the top two guys [Holt and Boston] and Troy Edwards. There's a gem or two in the second or third rounds, but then it gets diluted."

Rest assured the Ravens will not wait long. If they decide to grab a quarterback like Daunte Culpepper with their first pick, look for them to take a receiver with their second-round choice, the 42nd selection overall.

They also could trade down in the second round and recoup their third-round pick, where an attractive receiver candidate might be sitting.

The Ravens have only six wide-outs under contract. Only two of them, Lewis and nine-year veteran Floyd Turner, have measurable experience. And the club needs a big target to take pressure off the 5-7 Lewis, their only true game-breaker.

Holt, who will probably end up here or in Arizona -- which has the eighth overall pick -- likes the prospect of being paired up with Lewis, whom he recalls from his Atlantic Coast Conference days with Maryland.

"That would be fun. I'd look forward to working with Jermaine. He's an ACC guy. I remember him killing our defensive backs [at N.C. State] when I was a freshman," Holt said. "I think we would be a great tandem. Hopefully, we would open up the running game a lot."

Holt could have been drafted in the first round following a superb junior year, in which he caught a touchdown pass in nine of 11 games. He caught an ACC-record five scoring passes against Florida State that year.

Then, Holt outdid himself after returning for a final season with the Wolfpack. Once again, he caught a touchdown pass in nine of 11 games, while earning conference Player of the Year honors.

Holt wound up with 191 career receptions, just two behind the ACC career mark set by Lewis. He holds the conference record with 3,379 receiving yards. Holt also did it while battling his share of adversity.

A broken collarbone slowed him in 1996 at N.C. State. Two years ago, his mother succumbed to cancer after a 10-year illness.

Newsome and Savage point to Holt's maturity as giving him an edge over Boston.

"The way I use my size and speed to get open, catch the ball and make things happen after the catch is what got me here," Holt said. "I want to be an all-purpose receiver, not just a one-dimensional guy. You had to do a variety of things at N.C. State. You had to block, go across the middle, go deep, run reverses. I think my work ethic stands out. I honestly do feel I'm the best receiver in this draft."

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